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Challenges & Benefits of Medical Document Translation

Published on August 30th, 2022

medical document translation

Medical document translation is a crucial language service that can save lives and improve the quality of life for billions of people around the globe. From pioneering research and emergency surgeries to dealing with chronic illness or taking an aspirin for the smallest of headaches, medical document translation has a positive impact on the lives of everyone.

In this article, we discuss the challenges and benefits of medical translation to illustrate the importance of this specific language service and the difficulties it comes with.

What is medical document translation?

Medical document translation is a specialist service within the medical translation field that specifically handles medical documentation. This can include documentation used internally by medical and healthcare organisations and documentation handled by patients and medical consumers, such as instruction sheets for medication.

Here are some of the most common types of medical documentation that require translation:

  • Consultation transcripts
  • Medical records
  • Device packaging
  • Device documentation (user manuals, etc.)
  • Medication packaging
  • Medication instructions
  • Prescription labels
  • Medical form translation
  • Website and online documentation
  • Medical research

Each of these document types requires a slightly different approach to translation, and many require language experts with different skill sets.

For example, medical record translation requires strict processes in order to protect patient confidentiality. You also have to deal with some unique challenges, such as specific terminology used by doctors, including any abbreviations or references.

Like most of the listed document types, medical record translation is a specialist service. You should therefore only work with translators or a medical translation agency with proven experience in this specific niche.

Now that we have defined medical document translation, let’s take a look at the top benefits of this service and the challenges you’ll face along the way.

What are the benefits of medical document translation?

The benefits of medical document translation span across the whole industry, from research and development to manufacturing, healthcare services and beyond.

Some of the most important benefits are:

  • Lifesaving: The most important benefit of medical document translation is that it can save lives.
  • Safety: Translating instructional documentation helps people to correctly use medication, devices and other products.
  • Clarity: Accurate translation allows for important information to be clearly understood in every language.
  • Accuracy: With the correct quality control process, medical document translation reduces the risk of errors, misunderstandings and miscommunications in a field where accuracy is essential.
  • Reach: Properly translated medical documentation can reach and benefit many.
  • Inclusion: As part of a comprehensive translation strategy, medical document translation makes healthcare more inclusive for everyone.
  • Confidence: Quality documentation helps medical professionals, patients and customers alike feel more confident about products and services.
  • Informed decisions: When it comes to medical records, research and other documentation used to inform decisions, translation provides the clarity of information required to make decisions with confidence.
  • Collaboration: In an international field, accurate translation helps medical experts share information, collaborate and innovate new solutions on a global level – as seen during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Legal protection: Quality medical document translation protects healthcare and medical organisations against legal issues.

The primary aim of medical translation is to maximise the quality of health services for everyone and help Healthcare organisations and medical providers thrive.

What are the challenges of medical document translation?

While the challenges of medical document translation vary from one project to another, in this part we can discuss some of the most common ones you are likely to face on every project:

  • High stakes: The implications of errors in medical document translation can ruin lives, careers and companies.
  • Language coverage: As multiculturalism increases, health services are required to support a growing list of languages, even within local communities.
  • Cultural factors: Particularly on an international level, medical documentation has to consider all cultural differences that could affect the validity or use of information.
  • Specialist language: Translators must understand the meaning of specialist medical language, such as epistaxis (nosebleed), lachrymation (excessive flow of tears), xerosis (dry skin), etc.
  • Linguistic distance: This describes the degree of difference between two languages with greater linguistic distances making translation more challenging.
  • Latin & Greek terminology: Long before English became the lingua franca of the medical field, Latin and Greek moulded the phraseology of medicine – and much of the terminology still used today.
  • Anglicisms & internationalisms: English or international phrases are widely adopted in modern medicine, but usage can vary across language, cultures and local communities.
  • False friends: Phrases between languages that share semantic similarities, but have different meanings, for example: “intoxicated” in English (drunk) and “intoxicado” in Spanish (poisoned).
  • Medical eponyms: Medical conditions that take their names from individual people may need preserving or replacing with suitable descriptions, depending on the target language.
  • Subject expertise: Medical document translation requires language experts with extensive subject knowledge.

Any form of technical translation is challenging, particularly where complex language is as abundant as it is in medical documentation. However, the consequences of translation errors couldn’t be higher for patients or healthcare providers and companies, so consistent accuracy is essential.

Need help overcoming the challenges of medical document translation?

If you need flawless medical documentation transaltions, our specialist team of medical translation experts are here to help you. Call us on +44 (0)20 7324 0950 or fill out the form on our contact page to discuss your project’s needs.

Posted on: August 30th, 2022